by Ray Baumann
The Gospel’s greatest enemy is those who water it down. It is those who have let culture dictate the terms of salvation instead of the Word of God. Our culture has been affected by the demonic seed of self-esteem to the point were nobody wants to offend and nobody wants to be rejected. It is pride that makes men change the gospel message to make it more popular to the culture and it is pride that rejects it when it is preached.
Sharing the gospel produces endless stories of different encounters with people. It is a rush to watch the Holy Spirit move on people whether they accept or reject the message. I can remember a response one time that truly impacted me. After sharing with a few high school students about the need for repenting for their sins and putting their faith in Jesus, one student asked, “Are you telling me that Jesus is the only way and if I don’t repent God is going to send me to hell?” It really made the good news I was sharing sound so bad, but I had to answer “yes” to both questions. This type of response is pretty typical from a postmodern culture that is tolerant of every gospel and every religion that is being preached. The true gospel is very intolerant because Jesus is the only way and it is very exclusive to repenting and putting your faith in Christ alone and that’s where the train wreck occurs.
Preaching the gospel can sound so arrogant to people who believe God loves the world too much to send anyone to hell. They make grace the monopoly card that they will redeem when they face judgment. People have totally forgotten about God’s wrath, which is talked about more in the Bible than God’s love. But it sounds so harsh to mention the consequences of hell and talk about the reality of death. It is a subject no one wants to hear about.
It is because of this conflict that many pastors give in to pleasing man instead of preaching an exclusive gospel that would require repentance. They make a big mistake by spoon feeding a postmodern culture with an imaginary gospel message. Their wording becomes very generic, such as simply mentioning a relationship with God or making things right with God or God wants to be your friend. It becomes so generic that those sayings could fit in any religion.
I believe there is a real disservice to those Christians who gave their lives for the uncompromised gospel message. Churches today wear the same name and preach a popular message called the gospel that has been tailored for our culture. There is a point when the gospel message no longer becomes the gospel when key ingredients are missing. How can a person get saved when there is no mention of sin or repentance? How does someone get saved when they were never notified of any consequences of not repenting? The term “saved” is barely used and hardly understood.
There is no need for the Holy Spirit to work in someone when the message is about a better life or being healthy – who doesn’t want that? The Holy Spirit works when the true intolerant gospel is preached and He opens the ears of the hearer to the reality of the truth in the message.
I have had professing Christians tell me that they did not like my version of the gospel and that there is a more effective way to witness. Effective? If the end result is to have everyone respond positively then yes, the message must be trimmed down to just acknowledge that God exists and be saved. But we are letting the Holy Spirit do the work and as offensive as it may sound it is the power in the truth of the word of God that pierces the heart. The harsh reality of the gospel is that people we know will spend eternity in hell unless they repent and put their faith in Christ. So the gospel becomes a very serious matter of life and death. It is a sobering thought that should grieve us but most professing Christians will choose to live in denial, never facing this harsh reality.
What about grace? Just like the song, it is amazing. How does someone even understand or value grace when they don’t know the consequences of not having grace? Just typing the word grace makes me tear up knowing that I am so undeserving. Grace has been given to all of us through Christ’s death on the cross. The love of Christ in us makes the gospel the most vital message in the world. It is the understanding of grace that makes me go up to people and take the time to present the whole gospel. I view it like a gift card that everyone in humanity has been given. Our job is helping people understand the terms and conditions on the back of the gift card – that Christ died for the whole world but salvation comes when you take God up on that promise and put your faith in Him. The card itself is worthless, but it is the promise attached to it that has value.
Many will not redeem the gift because they choose not to repent and will die in their sin, never turning to the Savior. The good news of the Gospel is also stressing that individuals must act quickly because it is a limited time offer. It has an expiration date. It must be redeemed before death. After death it is too late. Anyone who preaches a gospel that resembles handing out a “get out of hell” gift card without sharing the terms and conditions has given in to pride and has become a man pleaser.
“…Or do I seek to please men: For if I still pleased men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10)
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